JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 16, 2014) – Despite holding a pair of two-run leads early on, the ETSU baseball team couldn’t hold off a scrappy Longwood club as the Lancers spoiled the Buccaneers’ season opener by rallying past the Blue and Gold, 6-4, on Sunday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
The Bucs (0-1) got productive at-bats from juniors Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) and Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) as they combined for five of ETSU’s 10 hits and also accounted for all four RBI. Thompson drove in the first run of the season with an RBI double in the second, while he later scored on a single by Riopedre. Meanwhile, Riopedre put the Blue and Gold back up by a pair of runs with a two-run home run in the fourth. Riopedre went 3-for-4 with three RBI and Thompson was 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Riopedre’s three hits and three RBI tied career highs for the junior infielder.
Senior Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) suffered the loss (0-1) as he was charged with five runs (three earned) on nine hits, while striking out five and walking none. However, Longwood right-hander Aaron Myers (1-0) outdueled the Buccaneer southpaw as he issued four runs on nine hits and struck out seven in eight innings of work to earn the win. Sophomore righty Travis Burnette escaped a jam in the ninth to earn the save.
As a team, the Lancers (1-0) out-hit the Bucs, 11-10, while a pair of fielding miscues came back to haunt the Bucs. Longwood used a passed ball by freshman Gage Downey (Franklin, Tenn.) to later score an unearned run in the fifth, while a two-out throwing error by junior Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) plated the game-winning run in the seventh.
After both teams went scoreless in the first inning, the Bucs grabbed the early 2-0 lead thanks to the RBIs by Thompson and Riopedre. Thompson drove in Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) – who led off the inning with a single – by doubling off the wall in left, while Riopedre singled an 0-1 pitch to left to bring in Thompson from second.
In the fourth, Longwood tied the game at two on Brandon Delk’s two-out, two-run homer to left-center, but Riopedre returned the favor in the bottom half of the frame. After Myers got the first two ETSU hitters out to start the inning, Thompson reached on a bunt single and trotted home on Riopedre’s fifth career round tripper to put the Buccaneers back ahead, 4-2.
Unfortunately, that would be the only offense the Blue and Gold generated off Myers, and the Lancers responded with four unanswered runs to take the opener.
Longwood quickly tied the game at four with another two-run inning in the fifth. The Lancers got their first run back when C.J. Roth led off the frame with a triple to right-center and crossed the dish on Brandon Harvell’s RBI groundout to second. From there, Colton Konvicka reached on a single back to the mound and advanced to second on the passed ball by Downey. The miscue came back to pay huge dividends for Longwood as Colton scored on two-out RBI single by Matt Dickason to tie up the contest.
From there, Myers was in a zone as he retired 10 straight Buccaneer hitters following the Riopedre home run and the Lancers took their first lead of the afternoon in the seventh. Freeman, who retired the first two hitters in the inning, surrendered a two-out hit to Harvell on a 3-2 pitch, which ended his day on the mound. After Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) came out of the bullpen, the senior righty looked to have done his job as he induced Konvicka to hit a roller to third; however, Sanford’s throw to first was high and the ball popped out of Roach’s glove when he collided with the Longwood centerfielder allowing Harvell to score from second – making it a 5-4 game. The Lancers tacked on another unearned run on Alex Owens’ double to left-center.
The Bucs had the tying runs on base in the eighth and ninth innings, but Longwood worked out of the dicey situations en route to holding for the two-run victory.
This marked the second straight season ETSU dropped its season opener by the final score of 6-4.
The Bucs and Lancers wrap up the three-game series with a doubleheader on Monday beginning at noon from Thomas Stadium. Junior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) will start game one for ETSU, while sophomore Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.) goes to the bump in the nightcap.
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